All posts by Philip Boyce


The year of 1988 was a big one for new releases from Marvel UK. One such comic was The Real Ghostbusters which I’d collected as soon as it launched that March, however most of its advertising space was taken up with the new franchise’s own merchandise. Marvel UK news and promotions were for the most part kept within the pages of their truly epic top-selling Transformers comic, which I only began collecting in November 1988, so I missed this little announcement on its 7th May editorial page.

Dragon’s ‘Teeth’? We’ll get to that. So, all was set for the UK arm of Marvel to release its first smaller format monthly. Regular readers of the blog will know I’ve already begun the Death’s Head read through with an introductory post and his guest appearance in Doctor Who Magazine. His own US-format comic would appear in November 1988, but up first came Simon Furman and Geoff Senior’s other original creation, although Transformers doesn’t mention they’re the pair behind it yet.

For it being set so far into the future Dragon’s Claws certainly has an air of familiarity about it

Marvel UK was having great success with licenced titles, in particular the likes of the two mentioned which mixed original strips with American reprints (the latter would come eventually in the case of Ghostbusters). But the company wanted to expand. They’d had a success with Captain Britain and now the focus was turning to producing more mature titles very much in the tradition of their parent company. Dragon’s Claws was to be the first of these, comics that Marvel UK could export back to the States. Even Action Force got a revamp as a physically smaller monthly comic and was sold in the US as ‘G.I. Joe The European Missions’.

On 21st May there was an update in Transformers and a half-page ‘feature’ explaining the premise in more depth (in the same issue as Death’s Head’s High Noon Tex, I should mention). In a dystopian future 6000 years from now Earth is dying, the seas are drying up, animals are becoming extinct and civil unrest is widespread as poverty and starvation take hold. Instead of actually doing anything about it the world government instead distracts the populace to bring them in line. For it being set so far into the future it certainly has an air of familiarity about it.

A violent, deadly televised game (simply referred to as ‘The Game’) is created and for a moment unrest is calmed. But when the game itself descends into chaos. It becomes a free-for-all where teams begin playing outside the rules for their own dreams of power beyond the game. The Dragon’s Claws team drop out as a result. Now they’re being reassembled by the government to go out into the world and bring down those teams causing so much of the terror their game was meant to quell.

In Transformers #167 the announcement was made that the premiere issue of this bold new comic was to hit newsstands within the week, although it’s strange the creative team still isn’t mentioned, especially given how Simon and Geoff were such a huge part of Transformers’ success. (Fans would’ve recognised Geoff’s art, but still.) Thing is, the first issue wouldn’t appear for another few weeks and when it did it’d have a different name. Both of these factors can’t have helped sales of the first issue.

In fact, the first issue didn’t go on sale until 11th June (according to the Mighty Marvel Checklist in other Marvel UK comics of the time) and under the name Dragon’s Claws, yet a week later on 18th June Transformers #171 ran another editorial calling it by the original ‘Teeth’ and talking about #2. Of course, deadlines being what they are this would’ve been written before the name change and the subsequent delay. At least they were finally promoting who was behind it to Simon’s and Geoff’s fans.

Eventually in #174 of Transformers, not on sale until 9th July(!), the date the second issue was actually released the name change was finally mentioned. That was a bit of a rocky launch, wasn’t it? So what happened? At the last moment it had come to Marvel UK’s attention a small press comics company had the same name and so ‘Teeth’ became ‘Claws’, although the logo (created by editor Richard Starkings) stayed the same. I’ll admit I never knew of the original name until decades later and yet the logo never seemed out of place. Now, it’s obvious why it’s a set of teeth, of course.

Knowing Simon’s Transformers writing I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one plays out

Simon Furman was inspired to create Dragon’s Claws after Live Aid which brought a higher awareness of global differences and injustices to the rest of the world. On the surface itself the reason behind The Game sounds quite similar to that in Walter Simonson’s Star Slammers which I’ve covered in the Havoc read through, although having not yet read Dragon’s Claws I’m only going by these initial press releases. I may not have been a huge fan of Slammers, but knowing Simon’s Transformers writing I’m sure there’s more to it, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how this one plays out.

As a preview, an advertisement featuring a one-page comic strip was produced, running for the first time in Transformers #171.

Whoops, a mention of the team’s original name slipped through in the second panel there. (I do like the not-so-subtle hint in panel four.) Adverts like these were the idea of Richard, who wanted individual comics to create a one-page strip very much in the style of the regular comic. This seemed like the perfect way to promote them and the likes of this, Death’s Head, Transformers and The Sleeze Brothers did just that. (Doctor Who Magazine decided to do a humour strip instead.) Each are highly memorable to this day so clearly did their job with this reader anyway.

Saying that, Dragon’s Claws only lasted for ten issues before it was cancelled. Around this time the UK comics market was becoming overly-saturated, a problem I’ve mentioned before in other read throughs. It was much like the videogames market before it collapsed a few years previous. Take Barrie Tomlinson’s Wildcat for example, a superb original title that deserved to thrive. If that can get lost on the shelves then these tinier monthlies were always going to struggle. But now at least three of them are going to get the OiNK Blog treatment, beginning with Dragon’s Claws, then Death’s Head and another I’ve already mentioned will join in due course.

I missed all the hype at the time or I’d have definitely tried this comic out in the 80s. It’s time to rectify that. I’ve had this collection sitting on my shelves since before I relaunched the blog in April 2021, so you can imagine how excited I am that the time has finally come when I can read them! (The blog has rules to follow, will power is needed to run this site, you know.) There was also a one-page epilogue produced in 2004 by Simon and Geoff but for now let’s concentrate on the original run. The Dragon’s Claws real time read through begins in just one week on Sunday 7th June 2023. I can’t wait!


That looks a bit different, doesn’t it? While OiNK did change a little for the weeklies, this was a complete transformation. As I said previously I liked the funky new logo as a kid but nowadays I already miss the original. Note how it promotes itself as a “magazine” now too. It’s thicker, glossy (again) and monthly, but its contents is that of a pure comic. Mad and Cracked were marketed as magazines and you may spot a little in-joke there on the cover, but this was a rebranding based solely on its new physical form. There was no such thing as monthly children’s humour comics at the time.

Lew Stringer made a good point about the younger audience not having the patience to wait a month between issues

Inside, it was our OiNK but ramped up to Holiday Special levels. 48 pages in total and back to the paper it was printed on for its first 35 editions. As such it feels very special when you first get your trotters on it. Later monthlies would benefit from content created specifically for the format (just like the weeklies eventually did), for now it feels a bit like two weeklies stapled together and with good reason, the change had come suddenly. Over the next six months you’ll spot a shift, not only in the size of some of the strips but also their tone, as OiNK repositioned itself into the teen market, which I feel was a mistake as I mentioned back in #61‘s review.

When discussing these last six issues with Lew Stringer he made a good point about the younger audience not having the patience to wait a month between issues. I did because I had a regular order and other comics to fill the gaps by this stage. However, at such a young age that long wait was the reason I never collected new comics such as Death’s Head even though I enjoyed the first issue, because by the time the next one came along my attention span had forgotten all about it! This could’ve contributed to OiNK’s sales falling. But we’ll get to that later, there are six big porkers to enjoy first. Let’s begin this one with Cowpat County.

Davy Francis’ strip of “The Everyday Lives of Country Folk” was the very first to appear in OiNK, in the preview issue no less. A fan favourite, it was strange to learn it was only a regular for 14 issues before appearing sporadically from then on. This is actually the penultimate outing for this daft lot. They’ll be missed but Davy’s contributions will continue in different forms, no fear.

This was possibly intended to sit comfortably both on the regular comics shelves and those higher ones W.H.Smith had banished it to

Elsewhere Grunts is renamed as simply ‘OiNK’s Piggin’ Crazy Readers’ where Uncle Pigg introduces us to the ‘new’ publication and the characters within, even though many are long-established strips. This was clearly intended as a kind of reboot for the comic for a different audience than originally intended, possibly to sit comfortably both on the regular comics shelves (as it did in my newsagent) and those higher ones W.H.Smith had already banished it to.

Something the teen audience would definitely have appreciated (or rather, not appreciated) was acne. Pete and his Pimple had always been a popular addition ever since he first ‘popped’ up in #15. Here, we’re treated to two strips for Lew’s character, originally intended for #63 and #64 if OiNK had continued in its previous format. We kick off (no pun intended) with this memorable one about the flying naked rugby players. It’s silly and immature fun and we loved it! Heck, I still do, it’s just so ludicrous (or Lewdicrous I should say).

Did you spot (again, no pun intended, I swear) the little mention of Cowpat County’s cartoonist there?

As you can see in the second strip the ongoing tale of Pete and Spotless Suzie comes to an early close. While she was perfectly fine with his huge zit (due to her Y.T.S. course on compost analysis) she also understood Pete’s desire to see the back of it and would help out with the reader suggestions coming in thick and fast. After all of the elaborate suggestions comes a very simple one from Glasgow’s Stephen Donnelly. Bribery. We even end up with a brand new strip.

I was surprised to see just how much of a thug Pete turned into so quickly, but I did enjoy seeing Lew depict himself throughout, and what pig pal doesn’t want to get their hands on some Uncle Pigg notes? Of course Pete gets his comeuppance and loses everything in the end. A harsh lesson for young Mr. Throb but a necessary and ultimately funny one. There’s a lesson for the readers here too, about hubris when we overcome challenges in our lives that others still face, of not pulling the ladder up behind us so to speak, told through humour and it’s just as relevant today.

Written by Charlie Brooker and (I’m going to assume) assembled by co-editor Patrick Gallagher, this GBH Video Madvertisement not only fits their usual M.O. perfectly, it also reminds me of all the ludicrous low-budget knock-off movies that pop up when big blockbusters are released. I’ve seen some of those horrible Transformers and War of the Worlds copies on the SciFi Channel and these GBH ones sound better than all of them! Speaking of Transformers, The Transformoids make another appearance in this issue but it’s not a sequel to the brilliant strip in #3, it is the strip from #3.

Yes, the dreaded reprints have begun. By 1989 and into the early 90s some of my other comics would also begin doing this, although OiNK was the first as far as I was concerned. At the time I wasn’t aware until a later monthly issue, as the ones used were from before I discovered the comic, but unfortunately the much hyped ‘bigger’ OiNK wasn’t all new material, despite it being just two-years-old. It’s only six pages (Transformoids and the first two Superstar Posters) this time but you can’t help feel a bit cheated. Within the next year or so reprints became a regular thing across the UK comics market.

Fleetway published two very lucrative fortnightly comics based solely around the idea of reprints

As the UK market became saturated sales of individual titles fell, much like the videogame crash earlier in the decade, so cutbacks had to be made and “classic” tales would return to fill out page counts for cheap. Fleetway even published two very lucrative fortnightly comics based solely around the idea, namely Big Comic Fortnightly and Funny Fortnightly, which Marvel UK then copied with its Marvel Bumper Comic. While reprints were great for newer readers (I personally liked catching up on older Transformers stories I’d missed, for example) it was a sticking point for long-time fans and I could see why.

OiNK had always been a little more expensive than its contemporaries, a result of the earlier gloss paper, its fortnightly schedule (thus less issues to make money on) and being produced independently. Now, with the return of higher quality paper and a much higher page count a few reprints would help keep costs manageable without increasing the cover price even higher. It still contained 42 pages of all new material, including many choice highlights such as these below.

Dallasenders Motel had been a story in #23 made up of six photo-mini-strips, but the one here (renamed ‘Neighbours of the Dallasenders Motel’) was brand new, made up of seven full-page episodes originally intended to run across multiple weekly issues. Elsewhere, Tom Thug’s constant truancy comes to an end and he faces a reading and comprehension test, Batbottom and Bobbins continue their takeover of Frank’s page and cover star Arnold Schwarzenhogger gave us his Guide to [Ham] Acting.

Back in 1988 I was so excited to see the next strip, the return at last of The Sekret Diary ov Hadrian Vile Aged 8 5/8 (yearƨ). The last entry of his diary was back in #50, then his mini-series about television took over the back pages from #56 to #61. As a child I’d always assumed the diary would return and this appeared to be the case here. Unfortunately not, though. No more diaries would appear in the regular comic, just the one in The OiNK! Book 1989 released later in the year. Despite this, this issue’s strip shows the potential for future storylines involving his baby sister who we first met in #37.

While Ian Jackson‘s art is as brilliantly funny as ever (so is Mark Rodgers‘ script), the typed sentences aren’t as chaotic as usual, making me think this part of the page was finished in a bit of a hurry. I’d guess this strip was originally planned for the weeklies when the diary was due to return after the aforementioned Vidiots series, but as previously mentioned by Patrick Gallagher, “Ian Jackson and Jeremy Banx were also very busy on their other work outside of OiNK and since we had a healthy stockpile of other artists’ material building up, we were never short to allow them a break.”

This suggests the diary wasn’t coming back for quite some time, so instead of holding this completed page of artwork back indefinitely it may have been quickly finished off for inclusion here to help make up the larger page count. That next book appearance would’ve been completed a long time before this, making the Vidiots series the final Hadrian Vile work produced. It’s still a delight to have him back even if it is a one-off. It just makes this issue that little bit more special.

Ed McHenry’s gorgeous full-page mini-strips (as I called them) were a delight in the later weekly issues and we’ve two here. One is actually a Wally of the West but I found this one funnier. As someone who used to jog in Saturday morning Park Runs where there were always those in the crowd who took the fun activity far too seriously, I found this particularly funny.

Kev F Sutherland’s first published comics work was in OiNK #38, returning later as a regular contributor. In the monthlies, in particular the later issues, he’s one of the comic’s most prolific cartoonists. His Meanwhile… series was always a highlight and this issue’s entries are no exception. Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas, the silliest little strips, the best puns that stick in our memories the most. Meanwhile, At The Fishmarket… checks all of those boxes.

There are many common misconceptions about OiNK. Two of the most prolific being it was a children’s version of Viz and that it was cancelled because of the Janice & John strip, which was actually published all the way back in #7. Another is that it went monthly because it was on its way out, that it was an admission from Fleetway the comic was failing. Co-editor Patrick previously confirmed for the blog, “I think it was Fleetway‘s intention to go monthly as it had been to go weekly, from what I can remember, which I didn’t mind – though I can’t remember at the time thinking the writing was on the wall. I think sales were down across the board but OiNK’s figures weren’t the worst – it was the other comic’s figures that dragged it down.

There was definitely no intention to cancel the comic at this stage

The survey in #54 which asked readers if they wanted it to go monthly was a genuine question, to see if the majority were behind the idea, and as it turned out they were. “I think it was more a case of Fleetway considering going monthly and in the meantime checking the audiences’ opinions, which may have had some sway,” elaborates Patrick when I asked him about the decision. “However, if something else financially detrimental occurred within Fleetway, unconnected to OiNK, that alone may have forced the decision to go monthly if it saved money – so that’s the only scenario I could imagine where OiNK might have gone monthly ‘regardless’. Hope that makes sense – it wasn’t always exactly black and white!

Over the course of the years since some fans have written off the monthlies in the same way some complained about the weeklies. (Some people just don’t like change, which can be understandable.) I hope I’ve been able to correct these assumptions and show the weekly comic settled into its format and became the excellent OiNK we’d all known and loved. Let’s see what the monthlies have in store for us over the next five months. There was definitely no intention to cancel the comic at this stage, merely reboot it as I mentioned above. It’ll be interesting to see it develop and settle into its third format now. The next issue’s review isn’t until Sunday 18th June 2023, we’ll find out then if it’s worth the wait!


A good few years back a Twitter account grabbed my attention and the attention of many who were worried about where the world was headed, what with 2016 being the year of Brexit and Trump. Christopher Spencer, who goes by the name Cold War Steve online, is an award-winning Birmingham artist who uses his iPhone and iPad to create collages depicting politicians, celebrities and royalty in satirical pieces that helped lighten the mood for many across the country in what they felt were dark times. (Many of his pieces featured EastEnders actor Steve McFadden in character as Phil Mitchell looking on in disgust.)

To mark our extra Bank Holiday for the Coronation, Steve has created a huge piece of art for display in London and made it available for purchase as a large foldable postcard. The outer parts highlight the kind of work he is known for, with a savagely funny portrayal of those in power in the UK. However, in the middle is a positive look at the best this part of the world has produced. Right at the front of this celebratory section, arms raised and leading the pack, is none other than Frank Sidebottom!

Taken from his own website, Steve describes his latest artwork as follows.

“The exclusive triptych artwork was put together over the last few weeks as Chris took himself off Twitter and back off booze. It marks the Coronation of King Charles III and our national obsession with being ruled over by dubious individuals and their weird families and the total crisis in leadership of our absolutely pathetic and self serving establishment political class. But it is mainly a celebration of what we should really be reminding ourselves about our country, the true collective creativity, beauty in diversity and fundamental goodness that makes Great Britain really actually pretty great.”

That last sentence in particular sounds very OiNK-like.

This huge display is free to view day and night in East London and you can check out Steve’s website for directions if you’re in that part of the country and wish to pop by. If not, you can always purchase the large postcard version. I say postcard, the main image in the middle is about the size of an A4 piece of paper so it’s rather larger than your average Blackpool ‘card.

“The must-have free-standing affordable art-piece for this year’s celebration of the King and Queen finally getting their proper crowns and all the inherited land they stole from the people centuries ago. We’re fantastically excited to see them in their gold carriage, I think it’s going to cheer everyone right up.”

It’s available for £15 including postage and £5 of this will go to CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a charity that’s taking a stand against suicide. As their website explains, “This means standing against feeling hopeless, standing up to stereotypes and standing together to show life is always worth living.” Especially in these difficult times it’s a great cause and you can help.

I believe this is something Frank would’ve been completely behind.

You can visit Cold War Steve‘s website to check out this piece, the man behind it, see his full archives and visit his shop. He’s also on Twitter and Instagram and is prolific. So, follow him and you’ll know when the news is getting you down you won’t have long to wait before Steve shares something to cheer you up and, most importantly, show you that you’re not alone.